Category: Education News Magazine

Science kits make remote learning effective and engaging

Take-home science education lab kits were a great way developed by the science education instructional team to overcome the difficulties of teaching and learning science education remotely.

Teaching remotely has been challenging for many professors who are accustomed to face-to-face classroom instruction and methods. Transitioning into remote teaching environments is especially difficult for activity-based subject areas such as science education. Science education professor Dr. Shana Graham says, “the biggest challenge in teaching science during the pandemic is to find ways for students to engage in experiential learning.”

Science education professor John MacDonald concurs, “The learning of science content, skills and attitudes are all greatly facilitated by having the learners interact with the phenomena that illustrate the concept under study. Students communicating their observations and inferences with classmates is also an essential part of learning about the nature of science. Added in to the mix is the importance of students exchanging their reasoning as to how the activities add to their understanding of the concept and connecting this new found understanding to prior knowledge.”

In a previous term, professor Michael McCoy had developed math kits to help students engage with concepts and he found them successful.

“John, Shana and I decided the best way to go about teaching science education remotely was to develop a kit for our science methods classes,” says McCoy.

MacDonald, who had found that moving back to the university lab to teach had been helpful in that it “afforded access to materials and equipment not present in a home office,” knew students would also need to have access to materials to learn: “The kits were our attempt to provide our students with an opportunity to experience the activities that they should be using in their future classrooms.” The three professors put together 100 science kits for their elementary and secondary science methods classes.

Developing the kits during a pandemic presented some new problems. MacDonald says, “We had very little problem coming up with activities for the students to do. The real problems were finding sources for the materials that could provide them in a timely manner. Ordering balances and magnets from China was much easier than obtaining materials from Ontario.”

MacDonald says, “The reaction of the students to the activities seems to be largely very positive. Some activities we picked turned out to be less effective at a distance than face-to-face. We now have a better understanding of what constitutes a good at-a-distance activity and how to structure these activities for success. Doing activities at a distance should also help improve running these activities in a face-to-face setting.”

Besides the use of take-home science kits, Graham says she adopted a different way of teaching: “I found myself practicing more guided inquiry with my students, instead of coupled or full inquiry. When you cannot walk a round a classroom and observe students in order to determine how they are engaging and find ways to encourage them, you need to improvise. I found the use of guided inquiry created a less stressful and more encouraging online environment for online learning.”

Science education student Jaclyn Kearley says, “I think having this science kit … made learning more accessible in the virtual learning classroom. It kept me interested and engaged, and I felt like I was having a much higher quality learning experience than I would if we didn’t have the materials to interact with. In a virtual classroom, the science kits are an incredible tool!!!”

Student Ireland Sorestad says, “Getting the chance to use these science kits … made me excited to come to class as I knew I would get to be hands on. Compared to my other classes where I listened to lectures for hours, ESCI 310 was a breath of fresh air. Ultimately, I look forward to continuing using the science kit and implementing some of these activities in my future classroom.”

One student, Robertson, a mother of two, says, “This has been an extremely beneficial experience as I have learned an abundance of ways to incorporate the contents of this kit into the elementary classroom. Beyond this, it’s pretty incredible to see how much one can learn and experience from the comfort of one’s own home.”

Robertson continues, “Not only have I gained knowledge from this class but so have my daughters, who are ages 8 and 9. Mr. McCoy was kind enough to let my children join in the fun and learning. They looked forward to our Thursday night classes very much and I appreciate it as well.”

Robertson outlines some of the topics explored with the kit and the methods used in the course: “We explored forces and motion using toy cars and ramps (ruler and books), electricity as we saw what happens when you bring a negatively charged balloon close to a stream of water, investigating UV intensity with UV beads, aerodynamics using two cans and a straw and the list goes on. Throughout these Zoom classes, we have had the chance to formulate questions, design procedures, collect data and create explanations based on what we see. I never had this experience as an elementary school student, but I am sure I would have learned so much more if I had. My science class experience included reading a textbook and memorizing the terms to regurgitate on an exam or worksheet. It was quite mundane and not very stimulating for the mind. On the other hand, these classes have been exciting and inspiring. I have enjoyed watching my daughters learn how to think for themselves as they join me in these experiments. I appreciate this and want to do the same for my future students, as it not only betters them as individuals in the science classroom, but for life in general.”

Student Lakeland Scriver describes their experience of the kits: “Our professors gave us the kits with little to no explanation as to the contents outside of safety concerns. I love this: It makes the science kits feel magical. I may not know what an object or a chemical or a container might be used for, but I know that when the mystery is revealed, it will be spectacular. My professors are big advocates for inquiry-driven learning and having us investigate rather than go through cookbook experiments. This method helped capture our attention—no matter where we were attending class. I commend my professors for taking the time to put these kits together, and for having the patience to walk us through all of the activities remotely.” (See Scriver’s full story on the next page)

Professor Graham says, “The pandemic has not been easy for many people to deal with, so I have tried to be as flexible as possible with assignment deadlines. Similarly, my main goal is to push my students to excel to the best of their capacity, so I also allow them to resubmit work that is subpar. The point of teaching, in my mind, is to do whatever it takes to help someone learn and grow. It can be most rewarding when you help students to have higher expectations of themselves by insisting on setting the bar high and offering multiple chances to reach it, rather than having them, or you, settling for anything less.

I hope that my students take away that being patient, flexible, and caring are perhaps some of the most important elements of effective learning/teaching relationships.”

With students taking away those important lessons about caring for their future students, there is something to be grateful for in a trying time, an unexpected moment of grace coming out of the pandemic.

Moveable Pulley Photos

Of the science kits, student Chandra Palazzo says, “The kits were very helpful and interactive, making science come alive in these times when we cannot meet in the classroom. It gives hand- on learners a great visual rather than focusing too much on content heavy material. Without the science kits, it would be very hard to understand the concepts, tactics and science terms that come along with each activity.”

Spring 2021 issue of Education News magazine

The spring 2021 issue of Education News is out in a new animated format! This is a themed issue of Faculty of Education students and faculty reflect on unexpected gifts and moments of grace coming out of a difficult and challenging time. Read about Education student experiences of learning and teaching during a pandemic, about science kits developed by our science education team to give students an engaging, hands-on learning experience, reflections on gifts of the pandemic by some of our Indigenous Advisory Group, a poem on Being Blessed, the Medicine Garden Project that is assisting Indigenous Elders, a teacher-researcher who explored the question “What actions can a school community take to engage in the TRC Calls to Action to become a site where truth and reconciliation become possible?” for his doctoral research, the digital literacies and pedagogies PD offered to preservice teachers, the joy of community developed in a Le Bac Arts Education class, and more! Visit the link below to download your free copy!

In this issue:
Table of Contents

From the dean’s desk……….3
Science kits make remote learning effective and engaging…………….4
Student experiences of learning and teaching during a pandemic……..6
Reflections on gifts of the pandemic…..8
Being Blessed poem……….9
Medicine Garden Project assists Indigenous Elders……….10
Teacher-researcher spotlight……….11
Digital literacies and pedagogies PD……….13
Notre communauté d’artistes trouve son inspiration dans la nature……..14
University of Regina 3MT® competition winner……….17
Grad student honoured with Alumni Award: Jacq Brasseur……………17
Alumni Award recipient: Christine Selinger…………18
Alumni Award recipient: Rosalie Tsannie-Burseth…….19
GA Award recipients……….19
Funded research ………….20
Graduate student scholarships winter 2021 20
Retirements ……….21
New staff……….22
Long Service Awards……….22
New appointment……….22
Published research……..23

Researching representational practices in musical theatre

Dr. Sara Schroeter Assistant Professor – Arts Education, Drama Education

When Sara Schroeter set out to attend a local musical theatre production one evening, an outing with one of her children, she didn’t expect she would have to have difficult conversations with her family because of the problematic racial representations.

“As a mother of mixed-race children, when I started going to the musical theater and seeing the problematic representations and after talking with my husband and hearing him say the damage was already done, and that this was one of many, many experiences that our children will have, that they might not understand right now, but one day they will, and these experiences will have an accumulated impact [sigh]—that’s when I realized that this is what we are doing with musicals.”

Musical theatre is a popular and traditional feature in many high schools across North America, including Regina. When Schroeter first joined the Faculty of Education as an assistant professor of arts and drama education, she realized she needed to gain a better understanding of musical theatre:

“Musical theatre is what many of my students in Arts Ed understood theatre to be. I needed to better understand what’s going on in musical theatre. I was told that musicals are really big for the local high schools and the community attends these musical shows.”

Schroeter set out to investigate and says, “I went to two musical theatre productions the first year I was here and both had really problematic representations of either race or gender and sexuality—some of the most troubling representations that I have seen recently, certainly something I didn’t expect to see in 2016.”

Her experiences caused Schroeter to start questioning the pedagogical value of musical theatre. She wondered where teachers were drawing their inspiration from and how they were contending with issues of representation in a field that, she says, “is known to have quite a problematic history.”

In 2018, Schroeter’s wondering turned into a University of Regina, President’s Seed Funded research project entitled, “Staging Difference: Examining Representational Practices in Musical Theatre Productions in Regina Schools and on Professional Stages.”

Though a drama educator, this exploration into musical theatre has been a new focus for Schroeter, whose research has mostly focused on youth representations of self and other through drama.

“I study applied theatre and drama in education, and am interested in youth making their own stories and telling their own stories. My research has also examined representational practices, often drawing on critical race theory and cultural studies,” says Schroeter.

Schroeter’s research project involves two parts: “Part of my research is to look at what is going on in high schools, interviewing teachers, and part of it is to go and see contemporary progressive shows, or shows said to be doing progressive things.”

Though her research is not complete yet, and no in-depth analysis has been done on the data, Schroeter is able to share some of her understanding of the issues so far.

Musical theatre productions are essentially money makers, Schroeter says. As such, “they are meant to have an appeal to a large audience. To do this, they rely heavily on stereotypes and tropes to make easily recognizable characters so that everybody knows what story is being told. These representations always comes with issues.”

When musicals are purchased for reproduction at the high school level, as commercial enterprises, strictly guided by copyright law, there is little room for local teachers to make adaptations. This is a problem because, Schroeter says, there are “so many ways in which race, religion, and gender and heteronormativity are written into the productions as a way of telling a particular story about how Americans see themselves and the image they want to portray in American society.”

Summarizing Hoffman (2014) in The Great White Way, Schroeter says, “the musical is in essence part and parcel of the invention of Americanism and white supremacy, with roots in minstrel shows from the 1800s and early 1900s when performers did dress up with blackface, and used quintessential stereotypes, such as mammy.”

As a form of public pedagogy, Schroeter views high school musical theatre as “teaching all of those things that make up what we are understanding and learning—how we construct knowledge.” Referencing Donatella Galella’s work, Schroeter says that “musical theatre is a form of public pedagogy because it tells us stories about who we are and who we imagine ourselves to be.”

As an example, Schroeter points to Hamilton (2015), which is purported to be a very progressive musical production. She says, “Hoffman (2014) writes about songs in musicals, such as the song for change. The main character goes through immense change and the person who sings the song for change is usually a white character who has multiple dimensions, whereas characters of colour are presented as flat characters; they stay the same throughout the show. Hamilton (2015) plays with this by representing white characters through actors of colour. Actors of colour get to play this range of emotion and change, but it is still problematic because they are still representing White folks, so they haven’t changed and disrupted what happens in the structure of the musical.”

Schroeter highlights other problems with Hamilton (2015): “The way the American history is told through hip hop makes history relevant, but it also makes the history irrelevant, because it is a story from which the actors of colour in the cast have historically been excluded—in some ways a re-appropriation. Why aren’t they telling the story of the Haitian revolution or of the theft of lands; there are so many others stories that could have been told that would be relevant to the students who would then see their histories represented in the play. Instead they are being told what is ultimately a white story—a slave-owning story—that has been re-imagined to maybe include the possibility of mixed heritage in Alexander Hamilton, which perpetuates the idea that he was mixed race, but we don’t know that.”

Though musical theatre is problematic, Schroeter understands that it fulfills a purpose: “The musical fills this void in not requiring audiences to work very hard to understand what is going on in the story,” she says. Musicals also “bring various departments, music, dance, theatre, and art departments together for these wide scale productions that involve a lot of kids.”

Schroeter clarifies her position saying, “I’m not taking away from the bonding experience or artistic learning, but I want to know what these productions do to us as a public, pedagogically, and to students in particular, and also to acknowledge, as Gastambide-Fernandez & Parekh found in their 2017 study of arts programs, who is included in those productions and who is excluded historically in drama and theatre programs in our schools.” Schroeter is encouraged that increasingly IBPOC scholars, educators, and artists are raising their voices about this exclusion in representation and taking on leadership roles in musical theatre, such as director and producer.

Schroeter still wants to see plays integrate music and art with drama, but she would love to see them be stories relevant to youth. “I’m not going to deny that kids want to do Grease (1971). I get that teachers are in a delicate position of having to do what kids want and push them.”

Avant garde theatre is one alternative to musicals because “avant garde theatre artists are often trying to avoid stereotypes or trouble the tropes. Then you get really controversial theatre because opinion is divided—with some hating and some loving it,” says Schroeter. Likewise, “when you make original theatre and stories told by students and their points of views, sometimes parents don’t like the stories that kids have to tell and sometimes the stories are experimental and people don’t get it.”

Through interviews with local drama teachers, Schroeter is finding some teachers “that just won’t do the musical because they are going to create plays that involve music and singing, but not musicals—once you open that door, you can’t close it because that is what people will want and expect.” With student-created theatre, Schroeter says, “you can cast more diversely, and the tools you are giving students are much bigger because you are training them as story tellers.” Other teachers in her study, she says, “are aware of the issues, and are trying to address stereotyping and problematic representational practices by having conversations with their students about it and by not letting the problems disappear.”

So far, Schroeter says, “my research is reinforcing what I already know about the value of arts education—giving students the tools to come together and make and create original art.”

Journey of Becoming a (Trans-multi)culturally Responsive Educator

Dr. Latika Raisinghani is a lecturer in science and environmental education at the Faculty of Education

Exponential growth in student diversity, the challenges posed by the current COVID-19 pandemic, and recent racial injustices in Canadian and global society, demand that we continue to explore ways to stimulate ongoing conversation and action that may invite education that is responsive to the needs of diverse students.

My journey to inquire about such an education began with exploring what culture is, how we define cultural diversity, and what culturally responsive education means in a multicultural country such as Canada. My doctoral study at the University of British Columbia exposed me to the complexities inherent in various dimensions of cultural diversity, the structural systemic inequities embedded in the education systems, and the politics of education that continue to marginalize many culturally diverse students in diversity-rich classrooms of Canada. What could be possible ways to respond to student diversity?

Informed by my doctoral research with K-12 teachers in Vancouver schools, I have conceptualized a (trans-multi)culturally responsive education framework as one way to do so. Amalgamating critical and transformational multicultural education perspectives and culturally responsive teaching, this framework invites educators to engage in critical self-reflective inquiries and initiate complicated conversations to interrogate the hidden curricula, recognize Other(ed) cultural knowledges (that are missing), and welcome multiplicity of lived experiences. Acknowledging culture as a dynamic way of life and cultural diversity as all cultural experiences that a student may bring into schools, a (trans-multi)culturally responsive education calls educators to cultivate critical cultural consciousness, embrace relational caring and develop empathetic relationships that may promote wholistic, socially-just, inclusive education, which cherishes diversity and engages with difference with solidarity and critique.

My efforts to invite educators in this transformational learning journey include organizing provincial professional development workshops for Ontario school principals and British Columbia teachers. As a member of the Faculty of Education at the University of Regina, I am continuing these efforts to invite (trans-multi)culturally responsive education through my engagements in teaching science and environmental education courses that focus on Indigeneity and responsiveness. My initiatives include contributing to the Fall 2020 Treaty 4 Gathering and co-initiating a Centre for Educational Research, Collaboration, and Development approved Knowledge Mobilization Project with Dr. Xia Ji on culturally responsive leadership for school leaders and administrators in Regina. Becoming a (trans-multi)culturally responsive educator is a life-long ideological and pedagogical commitment which necessitates what Mahatma Gandhi emphasized: “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” So, my journey of becoming a (trans-multi)culturally responsive educator continues, and I invite you to join me in this life-long journey.

By Dr. Latika Raininghani, Lecturer in the Faculty of Education

Autumn 2020 issue of Education News – Published!

Cover shows fall campus
Click image to download your free copy of Education News

In this Issue

The autumn 2020 themed issue of Education News is published. This issue highlights a few of the ways in which the University of Regina’s Faculty of Education is committed to facing current issues. With this issue we focus on our commitment to racial justice and equity.
Read about:
  • The Faculty of Education’s advancement priorities and how you can help us build community to help students succeed.
  • Dr. Jerome Cranston, who as a critical race theorist and researcher, “uses race-conscious approaches to understand educational inequalities and systemic racism, and to find solutions that lead to greater racial justice for those denied it.”
  • Dr. JoLee Sasakamoose, who is listening and responding ‘to health needs defined by our First Nations community partners.”
  • Dr. Latika Raisinghani’s journey to becoming a (trans-multi)culturally responsive educator.
  • PhD student Obianuju Juliet Bushi’s thoughts on blackness and racial justice and equity in the Education institution.
  • Dr. Sara Schroeter’s research into representational practices in musical theatre.
  • How Bac student, Wahbi Zarry’s “10 Days of Cree” student project is supporting U of R reconciliation efforts.
  • How the ESS is navigating through the pandemic and making community connections.
  • And about Cynthia Chambers Award recipient, Jessica Irvine’s research.
And more!…

Spring 2020 issue of Education News published

Preview the Table of Contents below and download your free copy by clicking the following link: Spring Issue 2020

Table of Contents

From the Dean’s desk…….3
Alumna’s initiative feeds youth during Covid-19 crisis……. 4
Land-based teaching feels like home……. 5
Educating about life with a service animal……. 6
Decolonizing education: One Kitchen Table Party at a time……. 8
Student researcher concerned with accessibility to play……. 10
Lee Airton speaks to students about gender diversity……. 12
Remembering Life Speaker Noel Starblanket……. 13
Students at WestCAST……. 14
ESS holds Town Hall meeting with Dean Cranston……. 14
Grad students writing group……. 15
Indigenization events……. 16
Cougar Awards……. 17
Student bursaries, scholarships and awards……. 18
Funded Research……. 19
Long service recognition……. 22
Staff retirement……. 22
New faculty……. 23
New books……. 23
Published writing……. 24

New Issue: Education News

The Spring 2019 issue of Education News is now available. Click on the image below to download your copy:

In this issue:

  • A healing journey expressed through the arts: p. 4
  • Students participate in Project of Heart: p. 7
  • Critical Relationality key to international collaboration: p. 8
  • How one internationally educated teacher became a teacher in Canada: p.10
  • A multilingual international collaboration: p. 12
  • The late Jerry Orban honoured with STF Arbos award: p. 14
  • An interview with an alumna who was recognized as one of Canada’s 2019 Outstanding Principals

and more!